Career Resources

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Students

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Career Development for LGBTQ students

Should I out myself on my application materials (resume, cover letter) or in an interview?

Depending on your own comfort level and interest in sharing your sexuality or gender identity with others, outing yourself at any stage of the job search process is a very personal decision — there is no "right" or "wrong" answer.

While it is important to some people to be out and visible, others prefer to be more private.  Ask yourself: is it important to you to be out at work?  Be sure to research your work environment.  Is it likely the organization you're applying to will look favorably upon LGBTQ-related experiences and activities?  If you're concerned they will not, you can highlight the skills you developed without highlighting the organizations you worked with.

How do I present my involvement with LGBTQ-related student groups on my resume?

If you are ready to reveal your involvement in a group that might lead an employer to question your sexual orientation or identity, consider including your involvement with LGBTQ-related groups or organizations on your resume. Here is a sample description of one’s involvement at a Columbia student group. 

EVERYONE ALLIED AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA, Columbia University                        Fall 2010-Present

Vice President of Social Events (2011-2012)

  • Planned and ran movie screenings, panel discussions, LGBTQ guest speaker presentations, and other social events by partnering with other queer political activist student groups
  • Conducted weekly general body meetings for 20 members
  • Organized the annual Student Anti-Homophobia Leadership Summit for 32 East Coast high school students, conducting outreach through Facebook, New York City public schools, and LGBTQ youth organizations
  • Created organizational recommendations for high school students on developing sustainable gay-straight alliances

If you choose not to reveal this level of detail, you may want to modify the statements to focus attention on your role and accomplishments.

Columbia University EAAH (a political activist student group), New York, NY             Fall 2010-Present

Vice President of Social Events (2011-2012)

  • Planned and ran movie screenings, panel discussions, guest speaker presentations, and other social events by partnering with other student groups
  • Conducted weekly general body meetings for 20 members
  • Organized the annual leadership summit for 32 East Coast high school students, conducting outreach through Facebook, New York City public schools, and other youth organizations
  • Collaborate with local youth organizations to promote social justice through education.

Should I “out” myself in an interview?  Will an employer ask about my sexuality?

Employers can and might ask about your sexuality. In some states it is illegal to make a hiring decision based on your answer; in others states it remains legal to discriminate against people because of their LGBTQ identity. (Check out HRC website for additional information)  However, it is important to keep in mind that you do NOT have to “out” yourself in any situation. It is your choice whether to answer the question directly or not — there are many ways to redirect the conversation or dismiss the question as irrelevant to your employment.

The best you can do is prepare for the questions you'd be most nervous about answering so that you go into the interview feeling confident and prepared to tactfully negotiate questions around your sexuality.

Participating in a mock interview with a career counselor is a great way to prepare yourself for an interview whether you may wish to out yourself or not. 

If I am attending a networking event or a career fair, how should I handle questions related to my sexual identity?

Coming out to potential networkers involves many of the same issues you might consider in choosing whether or not to come out in an interview or on your resume. Researching an organization's policies and climate gives you information about their general attitude towards LGBTQ people; however, the individual you are talking to may or may not hold the same attitude reflected in the policy.

Consider:

  • How important is it for you to be out at work?
  • How safe/comfortable do you feel in the networking location? Are there allies nearby? Are there resources available for LGBTQ candidates at the career fair or networking event?
  • Does the organization have domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination policies, and/or support groups for LGBTQ employees?  How did they rank on the Human Right Campaign website?

How should I dress for an interview or to a professional event?

Generally, we suggest that you stay with traditional business attire for an interview or professional event in order to present yourself as a professional.  CCE has a clothing closet where Columbia students can borrow suits and accessories for the purpose of attending an interview, career fair, or professional networking event. 

How can we evaluate if the future employer will provide a safe and supportive environment?

While it may be difficult to determine how truly supportive any organization is, the following indicators may provide you with some information regarding their organizational culture.

  • Domestic Partner Benefits including health and life insurance, educational grants, access to facilities, etc.
  • Non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression
  • Trainings that include sensitivity to LGBTQ issues
  • In-house support or employee groups, either formal or informal
  • Gender-neutral bathrooms
  • Positive statements from people with experience

If I have to relocate for my job, how can I get a sense of the local environment?

Finding a LGBTQ-friendly location is similar to finding a LGBTQ-friendly employer, so consider the following factors:

  • State marriage laws and relationship recognition
  • State anti-discrimination laws and policies
  • Hate crime statistics
  • State adoption policies and laws
  • Educational policies and laws
  • Human Rights Campaign website (Corporate Equality Index, Municipal Equality Index under the resources section)

Additional Resources for LGBTQ Students: